The church is by far the eldest monument in Westergeest and
belongs to the most important monuments of medieval architecture
in the Netherlands. Therefore there is a lot to be told about it.
In about 1150 the church was established out of
the Saint Bonifatiusabbey in Dokkum. It's the benedicter monks
from Dokkum who build it, after the model of the abbeychurch in
Dokkum. In 1333 the church of "Gaest" is named with the
churches which belong to the St. Bonifatiusabbey. In 1374 in the
same manner the church "et Gast" is named. It is
commonly assumed that in both instances the church of Westergeest
is meant. The church is sacred to St. Maarten.
There is said to be a tuff church before this church on this
location, however little is found of that earlier building.
In nearly the complete history of it people have
been buried in the church. The eldest gravestones are of the
second half of the 11th or 12th century. Younger gravestones are
from the 16th and 17th century. On these the names of the
deceased can still be read.
In 1579 the last Roman Catholic priest flees from
Westergeest, and the Hervormde Gemeente Oudwoude-Westergeest
(Reformed Parish of Oudwoude and Westergeest) comes into
existence. Statues are removed, wall-paintings whitewashed, and
the three altars demolished. They now serve as first step of
staircase of the pulpit and as threshold.
In the course of time the church has undergone many
rebuildings. A long time ago the church had the shape of a cross,
like many churches, meaning there used to be chapels at the north
and south wall. Traces of this can still be found in these walls.
In 1830 larger windows were put in. The building must have been
very dark inside before that time. Other rebuildings took place
in 1635 and 1795.
In 1807 the tower was shortened by two roeden
(about 8 metres). The tower now has a saddle roof, instead of a
gable-roof. From the remaining bricks the small house next to the
tower is said to be build.
The bell has it's own story. In 1857 the tower
receives a church bell again. The previous, by an old story, was
thrown into a pool of water in the Dôle (a nearby area), by the
devil. People say, one can still hear the bell when the weather
In 1943 Westergeest loses it's bell again, but now the Germans
take it to make guns out of it. It takes until 1949 till a new
bell is in place.
Nationwide news is the church in 1895 as the
frescos (wallpaintings) are rediscovered, the eldest of the
country in that time. After being studied by experts for a few
years they are whitewashed again.
With the restoration in 1957 the church gets back
it's roman architecture. Plans for this restoration had already
been there since 1945 but were restrained by lack of money.
Various things were restored back into the old style and beauty
regained where possible. Also the wall-paintings were put back
into sight. However they're very foggy, and anybody who is not an
expert won't be able to recognize much in them.
At the latest restoration, in 1993, various
measures were taken to lower the air humidity. This in an attempt
to preserve the wall-paintings. The roof at the north side was
revised, a copper gutter placed under the roof, and the heating
was replaced. Inside the building among other things the seats
got a new paint-job.
The latest change to the church was the
replacement of the lightning. In stead of 'spotlight-like' lights
chandeliers adorn the ceiling.
Church in 1928